This will be long and painful, but needs to be said.
Pretty bytes of hypocrisy served up nice and hot
Having watched the Gibson affair for a full week now and the non-stop replay of his drunken diatribe on my heritage, I honestly feel more offended by the public reaction than I do by the racist slur. Frankly, this nation must seem to outsiders like nothing more than a collection of disingenuous and self-righteous, self-obsessed and vanity driven xenophobes, all eager to point a finger anywhere but at themselves.
I am offended, yes, as a Jew by Gibson and as an American by the Bush administration.
Until his film depicting Jews in a less than historically accurate way, I had never heard any comments by him on Israel in general or Jews in particular. Incidentally, despite Gibson's historical revisionism, the movie was embraced far and wide by the American right who now deny, as the morally dishonest people that they are, ever having supported the Passion of Christ as a true story, despite its historical inaccuracies and anti-Jewish slant. (See here; here; and here).
The "values voter" is and has always been a propaganda concept, sold and bought by the mass media to justify the inexcusable and twisted "compassionate" authoritarian agenda.
As a Jew, I was more offended by the Passion of the Christ, than I am now by a drunken actor, driving under the influence and spewing racial slurs. Honestly, the nation's overreaction to the Passion of Mel's drinking is only equal to the zeal it showed for him as though he were a prophet of God. But he did not then nor does he now deserve this kind of hysteria.
Gibson is now being covered to such an extent and in such a way as to make him seem a monster, a rare creature of hate in a sea of tolerance. But the reality is far more disturbing and Gibson is hardly the monstrosity or the face of evil and hatred when one considers his chosen profession, an actor and his statements on Judaism, which are rare and far between. In fact, he appears to be far more inclined to conceal his views until he has consumed large amounts of liquor.
Compare that with a "crusade" ushered in by the Bush administration against Muslims, the rampant racism against African Americans and the inexcusable and criminal - in my opinion - failure of the federal government to show any concern for New Orleans and the poor, elderly, and ill who were unable to leave.
How much coverage is there of the devastation in New Orleans that continues thanks to the contracts with Halliburton and similar cronies of the Bush/Cheney empire? Where are the black citizens of New Orleans? Where is the money for them? Why are they held at little camps with trailers and not allowed to speak to the media, having each of their visitors screened by military guards?
No, we are indeed a nation of tolerance and Mel Gibson screaming about Jews is just a bad apple.
A Moment of Clarity
A nation that purchases enough Ann Coulter books to put her hate products on domestic bestseller lists is not a nation that can claim outrage at a comment made by an intoxicated actor. Coulter makes a living selling hate, calls for violence, and appears on major television shows with the stamp of "news" on them.
She regularly uses this international platform to call for genocide and express her hopes for violence against minorities, and she too has made anti-Jewish comments in the past. Her neo-Nazi product, however, is being bought and touted by the same people who are running Gibson's comments as proof of the Hollywood evil, drunk and perverse, hating everything different from themselves. But was Gibson not just last year cavorting with God and representing conservative values of the "Christian" Americans?
Coulter has routinely called for the execution of American citizens, specifically liberals and specifically those who have already been attacked in New York. She has openly expressed her sadness that journalists were not killed more often. She has literally stated on public television aired across the world that daisy cutters should be dropped on Muslim nations. But her syndicated columns only begin to get dropped because of plagiarism, not for being anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-women, anti everything short of the Neo-Fascist party platform.
What about Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly - who advocate hate and endorse the executions for those they "Anti-American" and even traitors? Usually the traitors identified by O'Reilly and Limbaugh are liberals, defenders of the Constitution, peace activists, and non-Christians - basically calling for attacks on those who would dare to have a different political perspective? What about the vehement support these people show for the torture camps set up by the Bush administration around the world, even at times cheering these war crimes as somehow justified as retribution? And what of their rabid supporters who in their Nazi Youth-like loyalties attack anyone and everyone they can find who threatens their myths for any reason?
Is this not a culture that openly sells, buys, endorses, and lives hate on a daily basis? The only thing that makes this hypocrisy worse is that the people who claim the wound and the status of victim are the same people who are inflicting the wounds and creating victims.
I have some experience with these psychotics, who aggressively attack me and then claim that they are being attacked by me. Their hate is a product too; one that they sell for their own agenda and their own self-serving bitter egos that can only be stroked when they claim victim-hood on one hand and victimize others on the other.
Who is more dangerous, a drunken man yelling profanities and racist slurs or a man on a "news" show making racist statements and supporting hate crimes? What about the White House Press Secretary using terms like "tar baby" without batting a lash or the Secretary of State making statements that civilian casualties in Lebanon are nothing more than the "birth pangs" of democracy?
No, Mel Gibson is the racist, the bigot, the poster boy of hate. Never mind that the US and Somalia are the only two nations in the world who have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Is that more important than an actor driving under the influence who makes an ass of himself and spits out racial slurs along with part of his lunch on the side of a California road? Surely the media can cover something as important as the children of America having no rights? No, it seems between Mel Gibson and missing white women, there is little room to look at ourselves as a nation and understand what we really are and what we really are not.
In the meantime Coulter is on the bestseller list, Rice is representing this nation abroad, the Bush administration is torturing Muslims in our names, Jews are being blamed for all sorts of crimes, and all thanks to the ultra tolerant Neo-Fascists who have taken over the US and Israeli governments.
A Moment of Understanding:
I spent part of my childhood behind the Soviet Iron Curtain, where the right wing (no, the Soviets were Communists in name only) machine focused on my heritage before I was out of the womb. My birth certificate says JEW in big letters across it, and this document would have to be shown no matter what I did or where I went, thereby always making me a clear target, even as a child, of the blind hatred propagated by government-sponsored propaganda.
I remember vividly what was done to me, even if I still don't fully comprehend why it was done.
I remember being humiliated and made to feel apart in kindergarten by my own teachers who also happened to be responsible for feeding us. The most vivid memory I have from this time surrounds food and perhaps explains why to this day I have a problem with eating -- namely, I don't eat.
We were all poor, every Soviet citizen was poor, and the government sponsored meal of the day was what helped our families keep their children from starving. At home we would have soup at supper, but at school we would have a big meal that included meat. At lunch time everyone would sit and our teachers would serve us, all of us, except for me. I did not tell my parents for fear that my mother would complain and then be taken away by Soviet authorities. But my mother noticed that I was losing weight and she asked me over and over until I told her that "no" I was not given food at school.
I remember this very clearly. Our apartment was across the street from my school and my mother put on her nice dress, reached into a bottle in the cupboard in which they kept the little extra money they had, took out the entire amount and left the house. I saw her walk across the street, but before she went in she came back and took a bottle of perfume she had gotten as a gift many years back, still in its packaging. The perfume and the money together was the bribe to get the headmistress to force the teachers to feed me, something the other children were given for free. It was all of our money and it was the only perfume my mother ever had, something she so cherished that she never used it.
But it seems my mother was not specific enough when she asked that I be fed, because she did not specify how or with what, something she assumed she did not have to specify.
What I was given was not what one would call edible or even in a class of food-like products. Again I did not tell my parents, because again I feared something terrible would happen should they react. I was six and I knew this. But my continued weight loss had my mother so concerned that she began selling off the little she had in jewelry in order to bribe my school officials to feed me, with food, the same food, served the same way, as the other children.
Most Americans, especially white Americans, would never understand this and have no clue what racism, anti-Semitism, and hate are and what damage real hate can do. They faint in public when someone makes a slur but say nothing about US prisons populated with minorities.
Really, do we care that the majority of homeless in this country are minorities or the mentally ill? Not hardly.
Americans in general are seen by the world as are self-absorbed to the point where a comment by a drunk actor overshadows the fact that late last week the United Nations Human Rights Committee sharply criticized our domestic human rights record and issued a moral indictment of our failure to live up to international treaties.
An international body reprimanded our nation for such things as racism, while we ignored them in order to focus on one man, drunk, on one night, making one racial slur? Shame, apparently, or humility, are virtues corporate America apparently does not sell and the consumer therefore cannot buy.
We have no moral leg to stand on!
This nation has violated the Geneva Conventions as part of policy, and even when Congress attempted to correct the issue, much like my mother in her first attempt to have me fed; this administration used loophole arguments and add-on statements exempting themselves from the law and from all things decent. How is this not getting the same kind of coverage as Mel Gibson, an actor, drunk off his ass, who happened to show himself as ignorant?
Yes I am offended, but Gibson's ignorance and can be remedied. This entire nation, however, stands complicit in crimes against humanity and that cannot be remedied. It can be prosecuted and people can be held accountable, but America and its citizens will never demand such a thing.
Nor will Americans who call me such names as "commie" and "Stalinist" and "pinko" ever grasp that they will always blame the victim, no matter what. The people we are torturing are evil, they are at fault. The poor are too lazy to work. African Americans don't want to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Any of these sound familiar? And me? Well, if I disagree it is because I am from the Soviet Union, despite being the victim there, I am the criminal here.
Much like most immigrants now - who are under attack so that the GOP can score some extra points with the hate constituency, I am not welcome in this country. Xenophobia this rampant is obviously less important than one man, drunk, expressing his inner bigot.
I am in a position, unfortunately, to understand hate. I have lived in a culture of hate abroad and I live in a culture of hate here, in my chosen home. When I mention this, the same "Stalinist" labeling bunch will never fail to tell me "if you don't like it, go back to where you came from."
Gibson is not a hate monger. He is terribly misinformed and sadly far too dependent on liquor, but in this unfortunate episode he is guilty of ignorance. When confronted with otherwise rational people who are ignorant on issues of such import, I do not shun them. I attempt to understand the nature of their sentiment. I attempt to educate them on tolerance by showing my own, despite being offended.
When we as a nation cannot confront the undeniable facts of our own ugly domestic reality then we as a nation have bigger problems then a racial slur made by one person on one day and while drunk.
If violence breeds violence and hate breeds hate, then would it also not be true to say that intolerance breeds intolerance? Would it not serve all of us better to attempt to reach out to those who don't understand, who are ignorant, and attempt to help them understand what tolerance is? Perhaps by doing so, we can help them understand their anger and even our own. Perhaps by being tolerant ourselves and keeping ourselves consistent with our principles, we can show the world an American face that they have not yet seen and in doing so we may help them understand their own hatred of us.
I take seriously Mel Gibson's reaching out to the Jewish community and requesting help to understand why he feels the way he does. I accept his apology as well. Ann Coulter has never apologized. George Bush has never apologized. Yet when someone is brave enough to apologize and ask for help in understanding what drives their anger, we shun them and dissect them in a public execution.
True racists don't care enough to reach out. They can be bought, but they will never apologize.
So while the rest of the media runs wild with Gibson the "hate monger" and in doing so ignores actual news, and actual bigotry and hatred in America, I for one would like to issue Gibson a formal invitation to visit me or my family any time, to sit with us and hear our stories, to learn something of us, who we are, and what we believe, and to perhaps allow us learn from him the nature of his views. In the meantime, I will be covering news, and I will be covering such issues as racism. I hope that others will join me. I also hope other Jews will join me in extending an invitation to Gibson. Tolerance breeds tolerance. It is really that simple.